Delhi opener Aakash Chopra was given another lifeline when he was named in the India A squad for the two four-day matches against a strong South Africa A side (expected to be led by Jacques Kallis) next month.
Chopra, who played the last of his 10 Tests in October 2004 against Australia, forced his way into national reckoning again with an impressive domestic showing last season (650 runs in 10 matches at 50.00 with two centuries and three fifties).
More recently, he scored a solid 106 for the MCC against a competitive Sri Lanka A at Arundel last month. It was the same Sri Lanka A that stretched the Indian senior side on their tour of England and that went to Kenya for the tri-series, which the Mohammad Kaif-led India A won recently.
Kaif will continue as skipper in a squad that will see a couple another familiar face making a comeback, albeit from injury.
Uttar Pradesh’s Suresh Raina, who has been out of international cricket following knee surgery, is fit, as is Bengal’s Manoj Tiwary.
Delhi medium-pacer Ishant Sharma, Haryana leg-spinner Amit Mishra and Gujarat’s wily left-arm medium-pacer Ashraf Makda are the other changes to the squad that returned triumphant from the twin tours of Zimbabwe and Kenya. Eight from that tour retain their positions.
Chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar said here on Wednesday that Chopra’s selection was based on his domestic showing last season. "Aakash has been given another chance as we’re look at him as another opening option considering that there are tougher series coming this year, Pakistan visiting India and India touring Australia. South Africa A will be a stronger side and will test him," said Vengsarkar.
Vengsarkar added that he was also pleased that there was a larger pool to pick players for the national side from on more than one front. “We are looking at a dual spinning combination and with Piyush Chawla being unavailable, Mishra, being a leg-spinner, fitted the bill along with left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha.”
The squad: Mohammad Kaif (captain), Aakash Chopra, Cheteshwara Pujara, Manoj Tiwary, S Badrinath, Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel (wicket-keeper), Ishant Sharma, Yo Mahesh, Pankaj Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Arjun Yadav, Ashraf Makda, Amit Mishra.
Schedule: First match: September 13-16 in Delhi; Second match: September 19-23 at Dharamshala.
Three one-day matches: First match: September 25 in Rajkot; Second match: September 27 in Ahmedabad; Third match: September 29 in Vadodara.